I’m somewhat randomly posting this now, but I hope it’s both a fairly entertaining read and also gives anyone who has an upcoming U.S citizenship test a feeling of reassurance and confidence!
Wednesday, April 24th2019: U.S Citizenship test (Holtsville in Long Island, New York) –
Today was the test to get my American (and therefore dual, being as I’m British) citizenship.
There are 100 citizenship questions and answers, about half political, half history questions with a bit of geography thrown in. I’d learned them all, and when Marie questioned me a few days ago I got 100/100. They only ask you ten questions, out of which you have to get six correct. Once you answer six correctly they stop, and continue with the rest of the interview. The only slight nervous aspect is that they ask you verbally, and you answer verbally but it was really nothing at all to worry about in the end. It’s informal, and a one to one interview.
I wouldn’t mind learning the British citizenship questions and answers too, just for fun. At least I feel a tad less uninformed now! If they ask “who was the American president during the First World War?” in a pub quiz, simple: Woodrow Wilson. But I’ll forget everything in a few months or a year if I don’t make an effort to remember. My general knowledge is very poor, so it was good to be forced into rectifying it a tiny bit.
We set out at 7.50am, and it took over an hour. Marie had taken the day off, and drove us to the immigration centre way out in Suffolk County, Long Island. We were pleased it was out there, rather than an urban location. In fact, it’s beautiful out and around Holtsville. We arrived at 9.15 and had breakfast in a classy McDonalds. About four staff members asked us if everything was alright, and if they could help us in any way, in a half hour period! Then the ten minute drive from there to the large immigration centre. A modern, quiet and graceful building. Amazingly coincidental was that our friend also had her citizenship appointment this morning! Hers was at 8am, ours at 10.10. So when we sauntered in to the waiting room for ours, we were amazed she was still waiting!! In fact, I was called in before her. My interviewer was a very friendly, I’d guess Turkish chap. I wasn’t expecting chattiness, but he wanted to know about Whitestone, about my art etc and it was just like chatting to a friend in a pub! Casually, he suddenly went into the questions. The first one he asked me was “what does the judicial branch do?” (reviews laws). There was a post civic set of questions too – crazy questions like “have you ever been a terrorist?”, “have you been a member of the communist party?” – but I had passed and was even out before our friend! She did absolutely fine too though.
A most pleasant experience though, overall. Marie and I intended to have fun out here so we drove to a town not far away: Patchogue. We last went to Patchogue…probably about four years ago. There’s lots to do in the town: some great restaurants, shops and honestly the most real ale bars and breweries with tap rooms than we’ve ever seen on one high street! We enjoyed a great lunch at Flo’s – I celebrated my citizenship with fish and chips! We liked Flo’s luncheonette very much and aim to go back.
Then to a brand new brewery we loved, Patchogue Beer Project. It was quiet in there, but they had some blindin’ beers. I had a flight (Marie just water, but she tasted each of the beers) and we chatted with the intelligent and friendly bloke serving. In between we also looked around an excellent vinyl record shop across the street – Record Stop – twice. I said to Marie that I wouldn’t mind looking through their vinyl selection, and they had some great stuff! I would say about two thirds new records, and a third second hand. They also had a few record players too, so this became our focus because Marie was about to buy me a record player as a belated birthday present soon. We liked the look of an audiotechnics. For about $30 more, you can also get a Bluetooth version (“bluetooth”, by the way, is named after a 11th century Nordic king, Harold Bluetooth; Swedes developed bluetooth technology in the late 80s). We held back buying the turntable for today. Then after Patchogue Beer Project I asked Marie if we could go back in to Record Stop, and I bought albums from Neil Young – a double 1976 live (extracts from sets in which he opens kind-of for himself, acoustic warm-ups for he and Crazy Horse), and New Order’s ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’.
below, Patchogue Beer Project from bing images
A most pleasant and successful morning in Holtsville, and a great afternoon in Patchogue! Then the extra-long drive home due to traffic.
Skip forward to…I think it was six weeks later:
Yankee Doodle Dandy official ‘swearing-in’ day!
We enjoyed the day, which by mid morning had already seemed to have lasted a very long time because we set the alarm for 5.45am. Marie’s mom and grandmother both came along to the ceremony and were outside our house at 7am. They got into the middle section of our minivan, Marie driving, and off we set with the weather brightening by the mile. We arrived at the very large, grey-white modern and tall Eastern District Court House in pleasant Central Islip in Long Island, New York, by 8.05am, and some of us finished breakfast in the car before going in. We headed into the court at about 8.20, through security check and into the court room itself. I was shown to my place near the front with 124 other people getting their citizenship swearing-in today, whilst Marie, her mom and grandmother joined the relatives and friends of the recipients in the back section.
Marie went “pssst”, and handed me my Uncut music magazine. We knew there would be a lot of waiting around. No one else had brought anything to read. The young woman sat to the left of me said, “that was smart”. The court room was big, bright and modern with a large silver eagle crest at the front. Anyway, to sum things up during the next hour and a quarter or so, we mostly waited in the friendly, official but relaxed atmosphere with a hum of gentle and quiet talking. We’d finally set about the main process of being called up row by row to pick up two envelopes from the right hand side at the front, one a “message from the President”, the other instructions as to what to do in the days ahead including sending off for your American passport, and then you join another short queue where you checked your citizenship certificate to make sure details were correct, signed it and gave it back to them (it was to be given out at the end). There were just two, then four officials and one of them was the likeable chap who I’d had the citizenship test with! By the way, several months ago I’d been to Jamaica, Queens, to do my biometrics – photo and fingerprints – and at that time the photograph they took of me was unbelievably awful: tired, eyes half closed (of course, no glasses allowed). Oh no, it was the photograph they’d put on my certificate! You have to show that certificate when you apply for your American passport, but other than that it’s not seeing the light of day again.
Then we also picked up a form to register to vote, if we wished, filled it in and handed it back to the friendly woman.
The whole process in the court room was very pleasant, but a little tedious and slow. But when the Judge came in everything lightened up! What a wonderful, life-affirming and entertaining character he was. He gave us a jokey, warm speech, giving out gifts to kid relatives at the back from a tombola, and did a magic trick with a mirrored box and pulled out a stars and stripes flag! He said he’d keep things short, so we could enjoy the sunshine outside, and then we all stood up and you say the Oath of Allegiance (holding up your right hand) and Pledge of Allegiance, hand on heart, all 125 people together. Finally, after the Judge leaves you’re called out one by one and go up to collect your certificate amongst applause, and in my case whooping and hollering from Marie and family from the back.
I would say about two thirds of people were of Latin American heritage, and quite a few Asian. Then there was a young German couple and me, the only Brit, though there was an Irishman.
Once we picked up the certificate we walked proudly and happily out with relatives.
Because we had to hand in all phones – and weren’t allowed cameras in the building – we stopped to take a few photos outside, and I posed for two. Marie’s grandmother was already halfway to the minivan in her walker and keen to get off, but we’d all all sort of enjoyed the whole morning.
Now to lunch, an around 40 minute drive to Floral Park! We’d chosen The Harrison (tavern) in the end, and which occupies the same building Koenig’s was in and where Marie and I got married in March, 2006. I think it was perfect. It’s patriotic, with a big, old American flag on the wall and lots of photos of American celebrities. It has exquisite tiling, is polished, beautiful and looks great. It was quiet, being a midweek lunch time and not being near many places of work (and a little out of a usual work lunch price bracket). They played a variety of 80s and 90s music.
We didn’t know but they do an excellent $20 lunch special, and we all went for that! Marie French onion soup and crispy chicken (glass of water to drink). The rest of us had rose wine, a campari and myself the same Kentucky beer aged in a whiskey barrel that I’d had when Marie and I last came here, with friends. And to finish, amazing hot molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Marie took a photo of me under the flag, and the waiting staff congratulated me!
We can heartily recommend the classy Harrison. We’re also delighted that Koenig’s wasn’t just replaced by new apartments, but by an establishment we could enjoy going back to. It also has a serving counter open to the street: its more casual little brother, The Harry. Especially ideal for covid times.
Also, hands up who wants restaurants to continue their outdoor set-up even when we’ve completely recovered from covid! Many look beautiful, and a lot of eateries and bars have an outdoor space that surpasses their indoor dining experience. AND it could give them extra business if they survive the current crisis. The old indoor and the new-normal outdoor combination; what could be better?
p.s – but (lest there be an unexpected large spike of covid again soon) the governor has to allow NYC indoor dining by, say, November to avoid disaster!